Squirrel Invasion, Battling the Birds

My yard has no less than five squirrels at a time dining on various delectable fare all day long. They have a lot to choose from with the feeders fully stocked. They have taken to pulling out the lilies and iris from the pots and raiding the compost bins. But all is not well in Squirrelville.

A while back, Gilbert was attacked by a hawk and I was sure he was a goner.

Hawk that missed a meal, waiting on my fence for another opportunity.

His neck had a bad gash in it and you could actually see the talon imprints. I tried to get photos from inside the house, but they all were blurry.

I went outside and he was in the tree having a drink of snow.

The American Kestrel on the left was on display by the Humane Society for Earth Days at a local university. I was there for the Master Gardener’s to answer questions. This girl kept leaving her perch and landing in front of me on my table. I included this image because the bird below was in my yard and I think they are the same type.

American Kestrel having a dove for dinner in my yard this winter.

The image below does not show his wound as it is on the opposite side, but you can see the talon marks on his hind quarter. This image was right after the attack. Poor guy is really disheveled and in bad need of a stiff drink. Gilbert did not return for so long, I was sure he did not make it.

But to my surprise, he has returned a month later no worse for wear, scarred with hair missing around his neck.

But, he now has a new nemesis. I did not know what kind of bird it was and Donna from Gardens Eye View told me it was a Grackle.  I did not know Grackles eat seed so I was surprised. There are three of them that have taken over my yard as their personal territory and are seeing to it that no birds can nest here or squirrels can feed here.

They destroyed a robin’s nest in my Japanese Lilac tree, bit by bit and drove the robins away.

Now they have their sights set on the squirrels. But the squirrels have numbers on their side and keep the Grackles on the wing. Yet, they still say a prayer before climbing the pear tree, the main point of attack.

I find it a bit humorous that the squirrels run from them. After all, they are no life threatening hawks. Gilbert actually stayed the battle and almost fought to the death with his hawk. They fought in the pear tree as branches were flying.

The squirrel that the Grackles are most interested in happens to be Gilbert. Poor guy has had a tough year. The wind destroyed his nest in the pear tree last Fall and rendered him homeless, and he was almost dinner for the Red-tail.

The squirrels are have a rough go of it and I can not say I mind having a few birds on squirrel patrol. Here is another one saying a prayer before he goes down to get a snack.

Each time Gilbert comes into the yard, the Grackles drive him off.

But they are doing their best to rid the yard of all squirrels. I have been looking for a nest of baby grackles, but have not found one yet.

Odd thing too, there are three grackles, not two. Makes you wonder what is going on in Grackleland.

Below you will see the daily skirmish. All day long this testing of the wills goes on.

All the creatures are on edge, any wonder any of them get a meal.

See the grackle chasing Gilbert who is flying through the air on the fence?

If he climbs the pear tree, they go after him in the tree, just like what happened with the Red-tail. In the video, another squirrel is running along the fence from the Grackle. All the action happens so fast, I did not get much of it in the video. When the grackle disappears over the fence, he is in hot pursuit of the squirrel.

Gilbert used to rule the yard, but now has lost his authority. Other squirrels visit daily and get into everything. I liked it better when Gilbert kept everyone else out.

This is Gaylord and he has picked up bad habits from the squirrels from the wrong side of the tracks. Raiding my compost bins and pulling out the lilies from the pots.

This is where the squirrels are supposed to dine.

This is how the ones from the projects eat. No manners.

In the less than a minute video, Chipper, the chipmunk scampers up the Shepard’s hook right to the feeder. He is a cutie. And a few sparrows get some seed, after all, it is BIRD SEED.

Please check out Green Apples for another pest in What’s Bugging You?


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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40 Responses to Squirrel Invasion, Battling the Birds

  1. Donna says:

    That’s a grackle although the ones that visit my yard are few and far between perhaps because I have no feeders and few squirrels but I have bird drama of my own…never a dull moment with the critters…my littlest bird, the wren, has been chasing all the big birds away…go figure…

  2. Christine says:

    Donna, I love Squirrels – I have very happy childhood memories of feeding squirrels with peanuts, together with my brothers … so I get very upset when I see them chased and hurt. So I am rooting for Gilbert all the way!! May he get his “authority” back!!

    PS: The photo of the grackle chasing Gilbert is an amazing shot! Lovely Story!

    • I think with his visible scarring, all the other squirrels pegged him a loser. Even they chase him out of the yard. He was always easy to identify from them because the backs of his ears are white, like little light beacons.

  3. Cute story-telling, Donna! I feel badly for poor Gilbert…even though I’m not exactly a squirrel ‘lover’. I have no less than 10-15 squirrels in my backyard alone…at any given minute…probably more than that. It’s crazy, really! I’ve taken down a few feeders now that it’s spring and that’s helped a little, but they love my plants way too much and I have to sprinkle critter ridder repellant on a regular basis just to co-exist with them. But, I do it–and would never wish harm on them. One of mine got tallens on its back once…and he looked awful. I don’t know if he actually survived long-term. Ah, nature. We have such excitement going on in our gardens;-)

    • I take the feeders down in Spring too. I am just emptying out all the bird seed so it does not get stale. Plus Chipper lives in the garage somewhere and this encourages him to summer elsewhere. He has his own banquet in the garage with three types of seed.

      Gilbert really took a hit from the bird. Mostly from the bird’s beak. He lost a big tuft of hair too. I never saw a hawk go after a squirrel before, especially in a tree. I thought the hawk would break a wing fighting amongst the branches. I could not see if the hawk was injured.

  4. Cat says:

    Ugh…don’t even get me started on the grackles. You may want to pull the food away for a bit until they move on…where there are three there are 30 in no time. They are a nuisance!

  5. lifeshighway says:

    Great story Donna, I cheered for brave little Gilbert even though squirrels eat me out of seed and home. Gaylord is quite dashing and I am envious you have chipmunks. Your yard is a wonderland of native wildlife.

  6. Laurrie says:

    I love the pictures of your praying squirrel! Grackles must be like crows: one year olds from last year stay with the parents the following year and help raise the next brood. That maybe why you see three. We always have a threesome of crows in our yard, and one is their juvenile offspring.

  7. Ferdi Nel says:

    Amazing how wildlife in our gardens can entertain us for hours. I really enjoyed this. And the pic of Gilbert flying over the fence is brilliant.

    • They really are entertaining. They are having a ball with my five compost bins. I let them have the vegetables I put in them. I am amazed they actually wait for me to come out with watermelon, corn and carrots. Bread crust never lasts long either.

  8. Karen says:

    Donna, what an amazing story and your pictures, as always, are equally wonderful. Poor Gilbert must be a Super Squirrel to survive a hawk attack. And now he’s having trouble with interlopers and grackles? Gosh, he’s having a rough time of it. So much drama unfolding in your gardens, makes daytime TV look boring!

  9. OMG Donna, it is full on entertainment in your garden! It is so cute that you name your squirrels. I couldn’t tell mine apart to be able to do that. A few times a year I get Grackles (and in large flocks) in my garden and they chase everyone away. I usually take my feeders down for a while so they find another territory. I hope Gilbert manages to survive all this harassment.

    • Gilbert has white on the back of his ears. That is how he is different from the rest. Gaylord has a white marking too. They used to be the only two that would come, but not now. I take the feeders down when I exhaust all the seed. I always see the grackles eating grubs. This year I must have the feeders up longer than previous years.

  10. Hanni says:

    Oh, your story made me laugh! I could just picture all the drama!
    Those grackles are nasty little things…my Tornado screeches out the window for me: “Get OUT of here, blackbirds!” – I should teach her that for the grackles, too. And I dearly love that you have named the squirrels!

  11. Bom says:

    Go Gilbert! Poor guy! He needs to get his mojo back.
    The variety of your wildlife is amazing.

  12. One says:

    This story is captivating for me. Poor Gilbert. Talking about impermanence, he has lost his territory and authority.

    You have some great shots. The one of the grackles chasing Gilbert must be priceless.

    You have chipmunks too?

    Can’t click on the video now. Daughter sleeping next to me. Shh… good night.

  13. Holley says:

    I never knew grackles would run off squirrels! Poor Gilbert – he may need to go to a therapist to get his confidence back. He has really lost it – once you lose your territory to a chipmunk, there goes the whole neighborhood!

  14. Donna, I’m impressed with your tolerance and patience for these butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth wreckers. You give them cute names whilst I curse the blighter that digs my pots and last week destroyed a long-cherished begonia. Now Grackles are suddenly very appealing – if only they would migrate they could have cute names too. George and Gertrude Grackle on squirrel guard – most welcome

  15. Ugh, we had grackles at our last house. Boisterous would be an understatement. It just wasn’t fun feeding the birds when they were around. Poor Gilbert, he’s had a tough bumpy start in life. I bet he and Frodo could exchange a few stories 😉

  16. Stacy says:

    I’ve known grackles to chase cats before–they can be pretty feisty! I’m not normally a squirrel sympathiser, but poor Gilbert–you’d think he’d have earned some street cred by surviving a hawk attack.

  17. Andrea says:

    Hi Donna, Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ working in your garden. Maybe most black birds are like that, the crows in our area also disgust us, eat our chicks and fight the orioles. Your squirrels are so lovely with different colors. Maybe we dont have squirrels here, although i found some in Malaysia whose climate resembles ours.

  18. patty says:

    You are very patient and kinder than me when it comes to squirrels eating the birds food. Between the squirrels and the raccoons I lost a very expensive squirrel proof feeder. I haven’t replaced it yet, but am considering it. What I think your garden needs are some red squirrels. They will keep the grackles at bay. And the other squirrels.

  19. Gail says:

    Donna, You are a kind hearted woman! Poor Gilbert! Do you think he has a target on his back that is visible only to other critters! I am not feeling friendly toward the squirrels and chipmunks right now! They have been incredibly destructive…But, what’s a wildlife friendly gardener to do! gail

  20. I wouldn’t want to name my squirrels because my cat catches them and eats them. Voila, no squirrel problem. I wish we had black squirrels though.

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